Ron Clegg
1945-1954; 1956-1960
231 games
156 goals
Brownlow Medal 1949
Runner Up, Brownlow Medal 1951
Captain 1953-1954, 1957, 1960
Captain-Coach 1958-1959
Best & Fairest 1948, 1949, 1951
Swans Team of the Century
AFL Hall of Fame


Six weeks after Australia’s involvement in World War II had officially ceased, the 1945 Bloodbath Grand Final occurred between South Melbourne and Carlton. In his essay on the game, writer Martin Flanagan describes it as the most violent Grand Final in the history of Australian football.

Ron Clegg was 17 years old, playing in his 15th senior match. He’d graduated from the club’s junior ranks as a prodigiously talented youngster and quickly took on critical key-position roles within the team.

In the second quarter, Clegg and his 18-year-old teammate, Billy Williams, were knocked senseless by Carlton’s Bob Chitty, both having to play on with no reserves available to take their place. The effect on Clegg, in particular, was reported as being disastrous, with South losing by 28 points. Despite that day’s events, between them, Clegg and Williams would go on to win the next six Swans' best & fairest awards.

Clegg later told Percy Beames in The Age, “Had anyone sold me a map of Melbourne, I would have been grateful. I did not know where I was. However, my opponent, B. Deacon, Carlton's centre half-back, knew just how I felt. Far from Deacon taking advantage of me, he nursed me along until I was more or less recovered.”

"At one stage, I found myself wandering off to leave the field, but Deacon, it was who pulled me back."

As football emerged from the darkness of the Great Depression and the war years, supporters looked to stars like the charismatic Clegg to reignite their passion. Always a popular figure, he played the game with verve, whether at centre half-back or centre half-forward.

Over the next two years, his career steadily progressed before breaking out in 1948, winning his first South Melbourne best and fairest award. Though a great season, it served as merely an entree to the delights the next year would bring.

Two months shy of his 22nd birthday, Clegg won the 1949 Brownlow Medal on a countback from Hawthorn’s Col Austen, playing predominantly as centre half-back. The South Melbourne Record described his form as outstanding: “So strongly had his football personality impressed itself on the public that there would have been general dissatisfaction had he been defeated.”

They lauded the Swans’ second Brownlow Medallist for the style in which he won the award:

Almost from the first game this year, he has played brilliantly — one after the other, he met and vanquished the best defenders in the game, winning interstate selection as a half-forward; and then, switched to the key defensive post of centre half-back, he outshone his earlier efforts, becoming a dominating, spectacular figure, turning back attack after attack with dash and raking ground-eating dropkicks.

Clegg and his wife Billye met when they were both 15. The pair were driving home from a dance when they heard his name called on the radio as the winner. They went to his parents’ house to celebrate before facing the media throng the following day. When the medal was presented a few weeks later, Billye found herself locked out of the function, eventually finding a way in, only to miss the presentation by a matter of minutes.

At the end of the 1950 season, Clegg was approached to be captain-coach of New Norfolk Football Club in Tasmania, on the highest salary ever offered to an Australian Rules footballer. At that time, VFL players were paid a minimal fee of four pounds a game, whereas country clubs and Tasmania, in particular, could offer enormous amounts for the services of the nation’s best players.

After months of conflict, Clegg remained with South. By the end of the 1951 season, he was favoured to win his second Brownlow medal following another outstanding year, played predominantly in defence. His mid-year performances for Victoria were excellent, and on his return, opposition teams devised various plans to nullify his devastating influence in the air.

Ultimately, a late-season injury meant he finished in second place, three votes behind Geelong’s Bernie Smith. There was a silver lining, though, as Clegg collected 250 pounds in prizemoney after winning two newspaper and one radio station’s player of the year competitions. Naturally delighted, Clegg declared he’d spend the cash on refurbishments for his Clarendon Street milk bar.

He also collected his third South Melbourne best and fairest during that season, and on June 23 against Fitzroy at the Brunswick Oval, Clegg played one of the most remarkable matches in football history. Standing at 188cm, and weighing 88kg, he was an exceptionally high mark, with great speed and agility — all was on display that day.

Official statistics for marks and possession only began in 1965, but Clegg’s class shone like a beacon, taking an incredible 32 marks, mostly contested, while collecting more than 50 disposals. His performance was significant, and it sits proudly among the club’s finest moments on the Swans Heritage List.

In 1953, Clegg became South Melbourne’s captain under newly appointed coach, club great Laurie Nash. The team had failed to appear in the finals since the ‘45 Grand final, and Nash — never one to mince words — boldly stated that he’d improve every player by 33 and one-third percent, and the Swans would win the premiership. They finished eighth, and Herbie Matthews replaced him the following year.

The money offered by country football clubs proved too hard to resist the second time around, and Clegg spent the 1955 season as captain-coach of North Wagga. But Ron and Billye missed their friends and family, moving back to the red and white the following year.

Along with being one of the club’s greatest footballers, Clegg is renowned as being one of the club’s greatest entertainers. It was not uncommon for the Cleggs to host a couple of hundred people at their Glen Iris home to raise funds for a worthy cause.

Ron loved music and a good time, earning the nickname ‘Smokey’ for his singing and fondness of a cigarette. Clegg also organised the club’s famous ‘Pleasant Sunday Mornings.’ Always a relaxed occasion, with refreshments and entertainment, South’s version became part of footy folklore.

Ahead of the 1958 season, Clegg was appointed captain-coach of the Swans. The team, including a young Bob Skilton, was vastly inexperienced, with Clegg’s coaching highly regarded among the playing group. He remained in that role for two seasons before playing his final year in 1960 under Bill Faul.

Clegg retired with a then-club record of 231 games. Only Skilton and Adam Goodes have polled more Brownlow Medal votes as a Swan, and in 1996, he was an inaugural inductee to the Australian Football Hall of Fame. In 2003, Clegg was named centre half-back in the Swans’ Team of the Century.

Ron Clegg is a true Bloods Legend. He is remembered as a laidback and highly generous man who continued his close association with the Swans until he passed away tragically young, aged 62, in 1990.